Quickie: Too Old for Foreign Service Work?

Steve Vogel in today’s issue of TWP (October 2, 2009) writes about Dr. Elizabeth Colton’s age discrimination lawsuit against Secretary Clinton in her capacity as Secretary of State.

The article mentions the Government Accounting Office report warning that the State Department is understaffed at many hardship posts. Susan Hutha, a lawyer also representing Colton who is with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs is quoted as saying “There’s the irony that top-qualified people are unable to serve at the same time the State Department is in the horrible situation of being understaffed.”

Vogel’s piece also quotes Susan R. Johnson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, which represents 23,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees, primarily from State and the Agency for International Development, who said the restriction is unrealistic.

“AFSA thinks that there are a number of sound reasons to consider raising the age of mandatory Foreign Service retirement beyond 65, including but not limited to the expertise many older employees possess that is badly needed, and a general trend towards entry into the Foreign Service somewhat later in life,” Johnson said. “It’s important to note that only career Foreign Service officers are affected by the mandatory retirement age — not political ambassadorial appointees. Why is this?” Johnson added.

I should note that the American Foreign Service Association filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the State Department’s position of mandatory retirement in Bradley v. Vance in 1979. I have been unable to locate a copy of that brief except in a notation in the case files that says “*Catherine Waelder filed a brief for the American Foreign Service Assn. as amicus curiae urging reversal.” The brief was filed during the appeal in the Supreme Court of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision. At that time, court record states that “an average of 44 employees per year has been mandatorily retired.”

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance of the lower court decision were also filed by Alfred Miller for the American Association of Retired Persons; by William J. Mahannah and L. M. Pellerzi for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFL-CIO); by Claude Pepper, pro se, and Edward F. Howard for Claude Pepper et al.; and by Howard Eglit, Mark Shenfield, and David Marlin for the National Council of Senior Citizens.

In any case, that was 30 years ago. I am curious if this signals AFSA’s new position on mandatory retirement in the Foreign Service.

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New Embassy Contracts Awarded

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On October 1 the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) and the Bureau of Administration announced the contracts awarded for the new embassy/consulate/annex constructions in Mexico, Burundi, Afghanistan and Yemen:

Type: New Consulate Compound (NCC)
Location: Monterrey, Mexico
Contract: $101.9 million
Contractor: Yates-Desbuild of Philadelphia, Mississippi
Completion date: December 2012

The project consists of a consulate building, three compound access control facilities, parking garage, recreation facility, vehicle maintenance facility, and a mail screening facility. The NCC will provide a safe, secure and functional facility for 232 employees who will work at the consulate. The 10.2 acre site, located in the Santa Catarina Municipality of Monterrey, Mexico, was acquired from a corporate owner, Inversiones DD, S.A. de C.V., for $26.9 million in 2008. The NCC will replace the currently leased consulate which has been occupied by the United States Government since 1969. The Monterrey NCC is the third major project undertaken by OBO in Mexico in the last ten years. OBO completed the construction on the consulate in Ciudad Juárez in November 2008 and will complete the consulate in Tijuana in May 2010.

Type: New Embassy Compound (NEC)
Location: Bujumbura, Burundi
Contract: $109 million
Contractor: Caddell Construction, Inc. of Montgomery, Alabama
Completion date: March 2012

The project consists of a chancery building, a support annex/warehouse, a Marine security guard quarters, recreation facilities, three compound access control facilities and related site development. The NEC will provide a safe, secure and functional facility for 97 desk employees who will work at the embassy. The 10 acre site located in the Kigobe neighborhood in Bujumbura, Burundi was acquired from the Government of Burundi for $3 million in September 2008. The NEC will replace the current embassy, which was constructed in 1955.

Type: New Office Annex (NOX) and housing
Location: At the Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan
Contract: $209 million
Contractors: Joint Venture of ECC International Constructors (ECCI-C JV) and Tepe-Metag JV of Virginia Beach, Virginia
Completion date: February 2012

The project consists of a New Office Annex which will accommodate (number of personnel not supplied) and Phase I of the housing. The NOX and the housing will provide safe, secure and functional facilities for the employees who will work and will reside at the embassy.

Type: New Office Annex (NOX), housing, and support facilities
Location: At the Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Contract: $110.8 million
Contractor: Zafer Contracting Construction and Trade Company, Inc. of Ankara, Turkey
Completion date: January 2013

The project consists of a New Office Annex which will accommodate 57 desks and on compound housing. The NOX and the housing will provide safe, secure, and functional facilities for the employees who will work and will reside at the embassy. On September 17, 2008, terrorist attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a. A number of explosions occurred in the vicinity of the Embassy’s main gate killing Yemeni civilians and security personnel.

US Navy Joins Hogan Search in Curacao

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US diplomat James Hogan has been missing in Curacao, the Netherlands Antilles since September 25. The State Department confirms that the Royal Dutch Navy and the US Navy are assisting in the search:

QUESTION: Can you talk about the U.S. diplomat that’s missing in Curacao?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Vice Consul James Hogan left his residence late last Thursday, on Thursday night and, unfortunately, hasn’t been heard from since. And I believe his wife reported his disappearance on Friday. And since then, the Embassy and Diplomatic Security has been working closely with the authorities in Curacao to locate Mr. Hogan.

QUESTION: Do they think it’s something related to foul play or —


QUESTION: — have absolutely no leads, no idea?

MR. KELLY: No. Well, unfortunately not, not that I’m aware of. It’s a – of course, we’re extremely concerned, as is his family, that we have no —

QUESTION: Can you confirm the Dutch Royal Navy —

MR. KELLY: — information.

QUESTION: — and the U.S. Navy are assisting in the search?

MR. KELLY: No, I can’t. Yes, I can. (Laughter.) Yes, the Dutch Royal Navy is assisting in the search.

QUESTION: And the U.S. Navy, apparently?

MR. KELLY: Yes, and the U.S. Navy.

James Hogan reportedly arrived in Curacao last summer for a 2-year assignment. He was the Consulate’s Pol/Econ/Con officer until his disappearance a week ago. An officer recently arrived in Bogota had been ordered to fly to Curacao to run the consular shop in the island temporarily.

Insider Quote: Competitive Nature in Diplomatic Culture

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Attention is drawn to the particularly competitive nature found in diplomatic culture. It begins with attempts to enter the foreign ministry and there an emphasis is placed on how difficult it is to be chosen for one of a few jobs. There is a feeling of elitism within the profession that starts in these early stages and is by no means subdued upon entry into the ministry. The vast majority of diplomats strive for not only positioning within an embassy, but eventual appointment to Ambassador. It then progresses into competition as to who has the ‘ear of the Minister’ (i.e. influence over the Minister of Foreign Affairs) as well posting locations. The difference between being sent to a small African country and NATO, the UN, Washington or Brussels is immense.”

Source: The Hidden Culture of Diplomat Practice: A Study of the Danish Foreign Service – Mette Boritz –